Wednesday, October 14, 2009

B&W, W&O Chapter 2: Orthodoxy- A Relationship With God

Christianity is not a philosophy, not a doctrine, but life. - Archimandrite Sophrony

So, in the first section of this chapter the author asserts that in the beginning of life a person has an impersonal relationship with God. Simple identifying characteristics: Creator and the created. Nothing else. At baptism, the relationship becomes personal. 'In a personal relationship, each person has a name and is recognized when called by that name....just as the person dies and rises again in the water, God's name is revealed, but so too is the name of the person being baptized. God now has a way of getting out attention: He can call us by name.'

Since, in Orthodoxy as well as in Catholicism baptism is likely to occur in infancy, awareness of this relationship comes as the child grows. It's (in an Orthodox household) something that one grows up with. Mom, Dad and God. (How awesome is that?) The relationship ebbs and flows with each persons life. Sometimes its smoothe, sometimes we make progress, sometimes we fall down flat on our faces. But the end goal is always the same. Union with God. Theosis/deification.

From there the author wants to define 'identity'. In the fallen world, the mind is (mainly) the thing we hear the most. Identity is a form of labeling. The mind loves it, and starts doing it very early on. 'I' am not 'other'. 'I' am this storyline that I perceive. 'I want' - we don't like to share, at two or forty two. We want it because we desire it - it'll add to our experience, to our story. Give our minds something else to go on about.

But the heart, the heart neither wants nor fears. As opposed to 'I want', the heart exists in 'I am'. 'People who are able, albeit briefly, to live in (or through) their hearts, rather than their mind, experience life from a place of great stillness. They find their feelings of alienation, loneliness, and the desperate need for certainty which accompanies their normal life just drop away.'

As we grow, we continue to relate in 'me' 'not-me' terms. However, we also realize that there is something else, something greater and stranger than all the 'not-me's out there. That, we identify, as Creator/God - a simple Power. So far beyond 'not-me' that comprehension fails. It's a Mystery.

The author then goes into relating to God as person or Power, which I covered here. The end result is this: we cannot relate to God simply as a Power for long. It's not a relationship which can be sustained. One must either move past this simplistic understanding of God, or live in fear of the Power forever.

Without quoting the *whole* next section, here's something that I think illustrates the point: 'The man and the woman rejected relationship with God as a person and went into exile. They forced God to become an impersonal power, a demand, a commandment, just as a rebellious child forces a parent to become overpowering, impersonal, and free from dialogue when the child presses beyond the limits that have been provided for its safety and nurture.' Our rebellion in the beginning forced God to change our reality (or perception thereof) so that we'd be *aware* of our wounded nature, so that we would desire to correct this - move back into God's Grace.

The next section contains the 'fox and boy' metaphor, in which I still maintain that God is the boy and the fox is a person. God is patient, knowing what we need - waiting for us to approach. Because, while He is God, and *could* simply take over, that's not what He desires. That would take us back to the Power and subservient dynamic, where what God desires is a relationship. He wants us to come to Him.

And as we grow, we desire more and more a relationship with Him. Through living our *lives* in Orthodoxy, that is how we grow closer to God, closer to the place where He desires us to be - what we would have been before the fall. It's a lifelong process - but, as the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.


  1. I think I want this book. It really can apply to anyone, not just the Christian relationship with God.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Honestly I am totally fine with your thought of God being the little prince instead of the fox.(Ha, ha..can you believe I'm still talking about this? *ahem*) I agree that WE are the skittish ones who have to learn trust in God. The *only* reason I put God as fox in that example was

    "the fox describes how the little prince should learn to tame
    him - he must be very patient, sit a little way off and look at him out of the corner of his eye and say nothing, for words cause misunderstandings."

    I just think WE are the ones who should desire to hear from God. HE is the One worth listening to..the One who should have the right to instruct us. Yes, He desires us to come to Him, but are we going to instruct God about how He should run His world? Do we have a better plan than He? A superior thought process? Do we see the beginning and end at the same time? Or are we going to submit to the Father (relationship is there) knowing He is much wiser and has things in control. *AND* He has our best interests at heart KNOWING what will fulfill us more than we know it ourselves! I think we can submit to God - trust Him as a good, loving Father - and still have relationship with Him. He invites us to join Him and His work on earth. What a privilege! He invites us to come and when we come, we should listen to Him because He won't screw things up like we would.

    Enjoyed this chapter review! :)

  3. LK,

    It's really an excellent book. Ch. 3 is titled: Prayer and Distraction... :)

    The author also has another book out I've been eyeing...Steps of Transformation: An Orthodox Priest Explores the Twelve Steps.

  4. Susanne,

    Darn tootin' you're fine with it! ;)

    Your explanation and pointing out that it was the *fox* giving the directions did make the authors choice make more sense (I'd sort of overlooked that part in my thinking), but in general, I think I'm right. (Of course....*grin*)

  5. Ha, ha! :-D

    Believe whatever you want, Dear. You can even believe the earth is flat if you want. ;-)

  6. You have no idea how hard I laughed. :)

    Seriously, I ever start tellin you guys the earth is flat? It's *code* and I've been abducted by some random cult! Come rescue me! :)

  7. LOL! I will keep that code phrase in mind and will help you!! :-D


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